Which Interests Will Benefit from the Beef Ban?[1]

Manali Chakrabarti, June 2017

No one could accuse the present Government of a lack of a sense of drama. The last few months in particular have witnessed one spectacular move after another – so completely unexpected that they have caught even the Government’s diehard supporters gasping. And each manoeuvre has led to a trail of shrill debates, speculations, analyses, protests, jubilation as to the ‘real’ reason behind the unanticipated move.

The latest in this series is the notification by the Union government, announced barely three days before the start of the holy month of Ramzan, banning slaughter of bovine animals, including cows, buffaloes, camels, calves, oxen, etc. This has led to a spate of reactions from all over the country, especially from states where substantial sections of the population consume beef or buffalo meat. The outrage in the social media has spilled into various kinds of protests, some of which have turned violent, and are making regular headlines in the mainstream media too. In all this din several extremely important decisions of the Government are getting away virtually uncontested, even unnoticed – such as the selling out of major public sector units (PSUs) in various industries.[2]

Amid all this noise, let us try to make sense of this decision of the Government. We will start with understanding the legality of the notification and its immediate implication for the trade in cattle. Then we would analyse the impact of the notification on various sectors of the economy and the people engaged in them. And finally we would try to explore the possible reason(s) for the notification by the ruling party, which by all accounts would not only further rip the already damaged secular fabric of the country, but also severely harm the economic life of the people. Or, in other words, we would attempt to figure out who stands to gain from the notification. Appendix 1 gives an overview of the impact of the notification on related industries.

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— By Manali Chakrabarti

This is not my story. This is my friend’s but since he may never get around writing it I am going to pen it down as I remember – because this one needs to be told.

Well a description of my friend (henceforth referred to as MF) is in order as that would play an important role in this episode. He is one of the most interesting persons I have met in my entire life – he is well read (he seems to know something about almost everything under the sun and some over it too), well travelled, the most un-mundane way of leading life and most importantly he seems to be looking at the world at a crazy angle, always. This particular vantage point maybe uncomfortable to the conventional, but once you settle in with the unsettling perch a whole new aspect emerges on issues and situations which seem familiar to us from our regular vantage point. So having a discussion with him is always ‘interesting’. He is an engineer, has worked for long years in corporate world but gave it up to pursue a PhD to make interesting toys for children. He has two of his own, but they do not feature in this story so will not talk any further on them. Well after the CV let me briefly dwell on his appearance as that features in this story too – rather prominently. He is tall and stockily built, classical ‘Dravidian features’ and complexion, he is dressed nonchalantly (interpret it ‘as he does not care’ but may also come across as ‘he cannot afford any better’) not by design but by default. Well that is the picture except for a further detail – he is from a state situated in the South of Vindhyas, staying in the one of the cow-belt state and cannot speak any Hindi. He speaks English and Tamil – not necessarily in that order. Continue Reading »

A review of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh 

By Suvrat Raju

“The Great Derangement” is a very well written book. It is difficult to write accurately and readably about a complex issue, but Ghosh explores the cultural, historical and political questions surrounding climate change with remarkable grace. Ghosh’s attention to detail, his research into the history of the British Empire in Asia, and his fondness for science are evident throughout the book.   And at times, in some of the parts that I found the most enjoyable, he throws in obscure but fascinating details—an eleventh century Chinese poem about coal use, for example.

Ghosh divides the book into three parts —“stories”, “history” and “politics.” In the last two parts, as I will describe later in this review, Ghosh turns to the contemporary politics of climate change and his intervention deserves careful analysis. Continue Reading »

III. How One Class Enriches Itself at the Expense of Another

What, then, accounts for the growing divergence and inequality that the Survey itself reveals?

In the first place, it is a mere myth that the ‘free market’ equalizes outcomes across society and the global economy. In fact, any market is only a social institution, the product of a history of the exercise of political power. When that history has placed the control of resources in the hands of particular classes and countries, and spawned vast inequality of wealth, the ‘free market’ continuously reproduces and perpetuates that inequality. Had the free market dogma been reality, the vast inequalities prevailing across the globe would have disappeared long ago. But in fact historical experience has proved that capitalism concentrates wealth at one end of the pole and the vast mass of labouring people at the other, imperialist countries at one end and underdeveloped countries at the other. As Marx noted, “If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how in the same country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another.”[1]

Casting aside such ideological blinkers, we need to look at Indian society as it actually is. We need to look at the structures which determine the paths along which the social surplus will flow. Continue Reading »

Ajoy Sengupta

We are saddened to learn of the death of Ajoy Sengupta, at the age of 81, on March 16. He had been an outstanding distributor of Aspects of India’s Economy in Kolkata for the last more than two decades, distributing 80-100 copies of each issue. He was the most scrupulous of our distributors, clearing his dues in the old-fashioned way, by money order, in advance of all others, with meticulous hand-written accounts. In his gentle and responsible way, he would also give us pertinent suggestions and criticisms from time to time. He was of course a Marxist, engaged in the working class movement for the last 60 years. We understand that he worked hard to promote Marxist literature and study circles amongst trade union workers. We will miss him greatly.



II. Growth that Reproduces Backwardness

Coupling and decoupling, twin processes
This process is brought out in the Government’s own Economic Survey 2016-17. The authors of the Survey themselves reveal the perverse nature of the growth process in India in some of their research conclusions. They reveal that the very ‘growth’ of certain regions/sectors reproduces backwardness and depressed incomes in other regions/sectors.

First, let us take what the Survey considers to be good news. The Survey celebrates the fact that “India has replaced its erstwhile socialist vision with something resembling the ‘Washington Consensus’: open trade, open capital, and reliance on the private sector…. Reforms along these lines have been adopted by every Indian government over the past quarter-century.” (emphasis added) As a result, in 25 years of reforms, there has been a “remarkable transformation… from a largely closed and listless economy to the open and thriving economy we see today.” Continue Reading »

  1. Two Worlds

Many useful articles been written about the recent demonetisation, perhaps the most discussed economic event in India in recent times. The entire discussion has brought to the fore many aspects of India’s economy. Among them is an important theme that we have emphasized in earlier issues of Aspects: Namely, the gulf between different sectors of the economy. This gulf has economic and political implications.

This gulf can be seen in many measures, which are expressions of a single reality: the gap between the income of the ‘informal’ (‘unorganised’) and ‘formal’ (‘organised’) sectors; between rural areas and urban areas; between the sectors producing commodities (agriculture, manufacturing) and the services sector; between income-poor regions which are rich in natural resources and other regions where income is concentrated. Continue Reading »